United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
C. DEVER Chief United States District Judge.
December 22, 2016, Magistrate Judge Numbers issued a
Memorandum and Recommendation ("M&R") [D.E.
84]. In that M&R, Judge Numbers recommended that the
court grant defendant Joseph Lightsey's
("Lightsey") motion for judgment on the pleadings
[D.E. 40]. On January 25, 2017, plaintiff Julio Zelaya Sorto
("Sorto"), a state inmate proceeding pro se,
objected to theM&R[D.E.86].
Federal Magistrates Act requires a district court to make a
de novo determination of those portions of the magistrate
judge's report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made." Diamond
v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co.. 416 F.3d 310,
315 (4th Cir. 2005) (emphasis, alteration, and quotation
omitted); see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Absent a timely
objection, "a district court need not conduct a de novo
review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no
clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation." Diamond. 416 F .3d at 315
(quotation omitted). Moreover, the court need not conduct a
de novo review where a party makes only "general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a
specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson. 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); Wells v. Shriners Hosp., 109
F.3d 198, 200-01 (4th Cir. 1997). "Section 636(b)(1)
does not countenance a form of generalized objection to cover
all issues addressed by the magistrate judge; it contemplates
that a party's objection to a magistrate judge's
report be specific and particularized, as the statute directs
the district court to review only those portions of the
report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to
which objection is made." United States v.
Midgette. 478 F.3d 616, 621 (4th Cir. 2007).
objections do not meaningfully rebut Judge Numbers'
recommendations. Compare M&R 4-7 with
Objs. [D.E. 86] 2. Indeed, Sorto does not address
defendant's Lightsey's motion for judgment on the
pleadings in his objections. See Objs. 2. Instead, Sorto uses
his objections to bring other miscellaneous issues to the
court's attention and "asks the court to
review" the M&R. See id. Because
Sorto's objections fail to meaningfully address the
M&R, de novo review is not required. See, e.g..
Wells. 109 F.3d at 200-01; Qrpiano. 687 F.2d at
Sorto's objections lack merit. Lightsey moved for the
dismissal of Sorto's claims against him pursuant
to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See
[D.E. 40]. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a
party to move for judgment on the pleadings "[a]fter the
pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay
trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) motion is
designed to dispose of cases when the material facts are not
in dispute and the court can decide the case on its merits by
considering the pleadings along with any materials referenced
in or attached to the pleadings, which are incorporated by
reference. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).
same standard applies to a motion for judgment on the
pleadings under Rule 12(c) as for a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6). See Mayfield v. Nat'l Ass'n for
Stock Car Auto Racing. Inc.. 674 F.3d 369, 375 (4th Cir.
2012). In analyzing a motion for a judgment on the pleadings,
a court must determine whether the complaint is legally and
factually sufficient. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556
U.S. 662, 677-83 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly.
550 U.S. 544, 563, 570 (2007); Coleman v. Md. Ct. of
Appeals. 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010),
aff'd. 566 U.S. 30 (2012); Giarratano v.
Johnson. 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008); Goodman
v. Praxair, Lac. 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007) (en
banc); accord Erickson v. Pardus. 551 U.S. 89, 93-94
(2007) (per curiam). In evaluating a motion for judgment on
the pleadings, the court accepts the complaint's factual
allegations as true, but need not accept a complaint's
legal conclusions drawn from the facts. Ashcroft.
129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Giarratano. 521 F.3d at 302.
Similarly, a court need not accept as true unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.
Giarratano. 521 F.3d at 302.
alleges that defendant McDonald assaulted him on three
separate occasions between July 6, 2014, and August 3, 2014.
Compl. [D.E. 1] 11-20. Sorto contends that Lightsey was
deliberately indifferent to the injuries he sustained after
the August 3, 2014 assault. Id. at 29-32. In
response, Lightsey argues that the doctrine of claim
preclusion bars Sorto's claims against him.
final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the
parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were
or could have been raised in that action." Pueschel
v. United States. 369 F.3d 345, 354 (4th Cir. 2004)
(quotation and alteration omitted). A claim or defense need
not have been "actually presented in previous
litigation, " because claim preclusion also bars
"all grounds for, or defenses to, recovery that were
previously available to the parties, regardless of whether
they were asserted or determined in the prior
proceeding." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v.
Beverley. 404 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir. 2005) (quotation
and alteration omitted). The doctrine encourages reliance on
judicial decisions, bars vexatious litigation, and frees the
courts to resolve other disputes. See,
e.g.. Pueschel. 369 F.3d at 354-56.
conclude that a case is barred, the court must find:
"(1) a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit, (2)
an identity of the cause of action in both the earlier and
the later suit, and (3) an identity of parties or their
privies in the two suits." Beverley. 404 F.3d
at 248 (quotation omitted). "The determination of
whether two suits arise out of the same cause of action...
does not turn on whether the claims asserted are identical.
Rather, it turns on whether the suits and the claims asserted
therein arise out of the same transaction or series of
transactions or the same core of operative facts."
Pueschel, 369 F.3d at 355 (quotation omitted).
raised the claims concerning Lightsey's alleged
deliberate indifference in Sorto v. Stover. No.
5:14-CT-3130-FL (E.D. N.C. filed May 15, 2014) ("Sorto
I”)- In granting summary judgment to Lightsey in that
case, United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan
thoroughly examined the medical record and outlined in detail
the medical care Sorto received from Lightsey after the
August 3, 2014 incident. See Sorto v. Stover. No.
5:14-CT-3130-FL, 2016 WL 4257343, at * 6-8 (E.D. N.C. Aug.
11, 2016) (unpublished). After summarizing the record, Judge
Flanagan rejected Sorto's deliberate indifference claim
against Lightsey and held:
Plaintiff contends that Lightsey acted with deliberate
indifference to plaintiffs left arm, wrist, hand, and back
pain. The record reflects that, during the relevant time
period, defendant Lightsey examined plaintiff on at least 12
occasions, performed chart reviews on approximately 45
occasions, and was consulted by telephone on at least two
occasions. In response to plaintiffs complaints, Lightsey
prescribed plaintiff several pain medications including
Baclofen, Topamax, Dolobid, Mobic, Norco, Robaxin, Toradol,
Flexeril, a Sterapred dose pack, Indomethacin, and Zostrix
cream. In addition to medication, Lightsey ordered and
reviewed several diagnostic studies including x-rays and
three MRIs. Plaintiff has produced no evidence to refute
defendant Lightsey's showing that plaintiff received
continuous and responsive treatment for his complaints of
back, arm, wrist, and hand pain.
To the extent plaintiff asserts that defendant Lightsey's
efforts in treating his pain was not effective, such
allegations do not give rise to a constitutional violation.
Id. at * 8 (citations omitted).
January 25, 2017, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment in
Sorto I. See Sorto v. Stover. No. 16-7141,
2017 WL 360549 (4th Cir. Jan. 25, 2017) (per curiam)
(unpublished). Here, there has been a final judgment on the
merits of Sorto's claims against Lightsey in a prior
suit, and there is an identity of the cause of action and of
the parties in both actions. Thus, Sorto's claims against
Lightsey concerning the medical treatment he received ...